Now when the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared,
Telemachus rose and dressed himself. He bound his sandals on to his
comely feet, girded his sword about his shoulder, and left his room
looking like an immortal god. He at once sent the criers round to call
the people in assembly, so they called them and the people gathered
thereon; then, when they were got together, he went to the place of
assembly spear in hand- not alone, for his two hounds went with him.
Minerva endowed him with a presence of such divine comeliness that all
marvelled at him as he went by, and when he took his place' in his
father's seat even the oldest councillors made way for him.
Aegyptius, a man bent double with age, and of infinite experience,
the first to speak His son Antiphus had gone with Ulysses to Ilius,
land of noble steeds, but the savage Cyclops had killed him when
they were all shut up in the cave, and had cooked his last dinner
for him, He had three sons left, of whom two still worked on their
father's land, while the third, Eurynomus, was one of the suitors;
nevertheless their father could not get over the loss of Antiphus, and
was still weeping for him when he began his speech.
"Men of Ithaca," he said, "hear my words. From the day Ulysses
left us there has been no meeting of our councillors until now; who
then can it be, whether old or young, that finds it so necessary to
convene us? Has he got wind of some host approaching, and does he wish
to warn us, or would he speak upon some other matter of public moment?
I am sure he is an excellent person, and I hope Jove will grant him
his heart's desire."
Telemachus took this speech as of good omen and rose at once, for he
was bursting with what he had to say. He stood in the middle of the
assembly and the good herald Pisenor brought him his staff. Then,
turning to Aegyptius, "Sir," said he, "it is I, as you will shortly
learn, who have convened you, for it is I who am the most aggrieved. I
have not got wind of any host approaching about which I would warn
you, nor is there any matter of public moment on which I would
speak. My grieveance is purely personal, and turns on two great
misfortunes which have fallen upon my house. The first of these is the
loss of my excellent father, who was chief among all you here present,
and was like a father to every one of you; the second is much more
serious, and ere long will be the utter ruin of my estate. The sons of
all the chief men among you are pestering my mother to marry them
against her will. They are afraid to go to her father Icarius,
asking him to choose the one he likes best, and to provide marriage
gifts for his daughter, but day by day they keep hanging about my
father's house, sacrificing our oxen, sheep, and fat goats for their
banquets, and never giving so much as a thought to the quantity of
wine they drink. No estate can stand such recklessness; we have now no
Ulysses to ward off harm from our doors, and I cannot hold my own
against them. I shall never all my days be as good a man as he was,
still I would indeed defend myself if I had power to do so, for I
cannot stand such treatment any longer; my house is being disgraced
and ruined. Have respect, therefore, to your own consciences and to
public opinion. Fear, too, the wrath of heaven, lest the gods should
be displeased and turn upon you. I pray you by Jove and Themis, who is
the beginning and the end of councils, [do not] hold back, my friends,
and leave me singlehanded- unless it be that my brave father Ulysses
did some wrong to the Achaeans which you would now avenge on me, by
aiding and abetting these suitors. Moreover, if I am to be eaten out
of house and home at all, I had rather you did the eating
yourselves, for I could then take action against you to some
purpose, and serve you with notices from house to house till I got
paid in full, whereas now I have no remedy."
With this Telemachus dashed his staff to the ground and burst into
tears. Every one was very sorry for him, but they all sat still and no
one ventured to make him an angry answer, save only Antinous, who
spoke thus:
"Telemachus, insolent braggart that you are, how dare you try to
throw the blame upon us suitors? It is your mother's fault not ours,
for she is a very artful woman. This three years past, and close on
four, she has been driving us out of our minds, by encouraging each
one of us, and sending him messages without meaning one word of what
she says. And then there was that other trick she played us. She set
up a great tambour frame in her room, and began to work on an enormous
piece of fine needlework. 'Sweet hearts,' said she, 'Ulysses is indeed
dead, still do not press me to marry again immediately, wait- for I
would not have skill in needlework perish unrecorded- till I have
completed a pall for the hero Laertes, to be in readiness against
the time when death shall take him. He is very rich, and the women
of the place will talk if he is laid out without a pall.'
"This was what she said, and we assented; whereon we could see her
working on her great web all day long, but at night she would unpick
the stitches again by torchlight. She fooled us in this way for
three years and we never found her out, but as time wore on and she
was now in her fourth year, one of her maids who knew what she was
doing told us, and we caught her in the act of undoing her work, so
she had to finish it whether she would or no. The suitors,
therefore, make you this answer, that both you and the Achaeans may
understand-'Send your mother away, and bid her marry the man of her
own and of her father's choice'; for I do not know what will happen if
she goes on plaguing us much longer with the airs she gives herself on
the score of the accomplishments Minerva has taught her, and because
she is so clever. We never yet heard of such a woman; we know all
about Tyro, Alcmena, Mycene, and the famous women of old, but they
were nothing to your mother, any one of them. It was not fair of her
to treat us in that way, and as long as she continues in the mind with
which heaven has now endowed her, so long shall we go on eating up
your estate; and I do not see why she should change, for she gets
all the honour and glory, and it is you who pay for it, not she.
Understand, then, that we will not go back to our lands, neither
here nor elsewhere, till she has made her choice and married some
one or other of us."
Telemachus answered, "Antinous, how can I drive the mother who
bore me from my father's house? My father is abroad and we do not know
whether he is alive or dead. It will be hard on me if I have to pay
Icarius the large sum which I must give him if I insist on sending his
daughter back to him. Not only will he deal rigorously with me, but
heaven will also punish me; for my mother when she leaves the house
will calf on the Erinyes to avenge her; besides, it would not be a
creditable thing to do, and I will have nothing to say to it. If you
choose to take offence at this, leave the house and feast elsewhere at
one another's houses at your own cost turn and turn about. If, on
the other hand, you elect to persist in spunging upon one man,
heaven help me, but Jove shall reckon with you in full, and when you
fall in my father's house there shall be no man to avenge you."
As he spoke Jove sent two eagles from the top of the mountain, and
they flew on and on with the wind, sailing side by side in their own
lordly flight. When they were right over the middle of the assembly
they wheeled and circled about, beating the air with their wings and
glaring death into the eyes of them that were below; then, fighting
fiercely and tearing at one another, they flew off towards the right
over the town. The people wondered as they saw them, and asked each
other what an this might be; whereon Halitherses, who was the best
prophet and reader of ome